Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad met with the media at Pat Pimm's office in Fort St. John on Wednesday to discuss the progress made at the First Nations LNG Summit. Rustad reiterated that liquefied natural gas is a big opportunity for the province and the desire for First Nations throughout B.C. to have the chance to participate in the industry.
The summit was the third of its kind after previous events were held in Prince George and Prince Rupert. Rustad says the goal was to inform First Nations as to what makes up the LNG industry and to exchange ideas on the subject.
“There’s been a series of summits to discuss what liquefied natural gas is and to answer some basic questions, get into details, and create networking opportunities,” he explains. “This is the third in that series of summits here in Fort St. John. There’s a number of breakout sessions and speeches and other things that are going on to provide that information and to provide that climate for exchange of ideas and networking that can create those opportunities”
Rustad adds that the government wanted to hear from First Nations about their concerns and is encouraging those in favour of LNG to be sensitive to issues that are brought forward regarding heritage and the environment.
“We are very interested in engaging with First Nations. We have been now for quite some time. It’s about building that respect and finding out the issues that need to be taken into consideration and trying to encourage the proponents to be sensitive to cultural heritage and environmental concerns that are brought forward,” he states. “In British Columbia we are probably the envy of many jurisdictions in the world. We have some of the highest standards anywhere with regards to natural gas extraction and our environmental standards and we’re very proud of that.”
West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson said on Tuesday that while the province is discussing the LNG industry, there are trust issues for First Nations given obligations not fulfilled by the province.
“The province is coming to the table to talk about an agreement around LNG and shale gas, primarily around the pipelines that are being proposed so that’s a start. We need to see where they are going to come from with that. Typically they start very low. We have to fight and scratch our way to get any kind of meaningful benefit out of it. There’s a lot of broken promises up here. They tell us one thing and go and do something else and that’s status quo for the province. They haven’t lived up to too many of their obligations up here. We’re pretty jaded and reserved in our discussions with them.
Rustad however says that the government is working not only on new agreements that will benefit First Nations when it comes to LNG developments, but on updating old ones that better reflect the impacts of the LNG industry.
“We’re working with specifically the Treaty 8 Nations. We have five current economic benefit agreements in place to see benefits flowing to the First Nations with regards to the natural gas extraction. We are in the process of negotiating some new agreements and we’ll also be in the process of updating the existing economic benefit agreements. Those agreements when they were set up were before we envisioned the kind of activity that may happen if we can get the liquefied natural gas happening.”
Today was the final day of the First Nations LNG Summit which had been held at the Pomeroy Hotel.